Although it’s a member of the same family, Pieris japonica (also known as Japanese andromeda) in no way resembles heather. It’s an evergreen hardy shrub with an extraordinarily colourful personality which looks different throughout the year. In the autumn it produces burgundy buds that provide colour in winter. In the spring those buds open into white, pink or red sprays of bell-shaped flowers. After the spring flowering, the leaves turn copper, red, pink or pale green as if the plant was enjoying a second flowering. There are also species with variegated leaves and lilac to purple buds. The colour metamorphosis continues until new buds form in the autumn. A healthy plant will therefore provide a four season spectacle in your garden, including the months when there’s not much going on.
Shrouded in mist
Pieris is a member of the heather family, and there are seven known species. The plant grows in mountain regions in South-East Asia, eastern North America and Cuba, often alongside rhododendron. The plant is particularly common in Japan and the Himalayas, preferably on misty slopes. In the wild there are species that can reach a height of 6 m and a width of 3 m, although the cultivated version is more modestly sized. It’s also a plant that takes its time growing, which means it’s also suitable for small gardens.
Pieris derives its name from Pieria, which was the home of the Muses - also called ‘Pierides’ - in Greek mythology.
Pieris is one of the few plants that grows leaves right down to the ground, so it doesn’t develop a bare base even after a few years.
In the Far East the plant is known as ‘eternal flame’ because of the coloured leaves. Anyone who has a bush in the garden will be sure to get through the winter happily.